I’m a communications consultant. I help my clients build and sustain effective employee communications programs and strategies.
While I have years of experience in communications planning in the business and professional association world, I never thought about how that experience applies to the rest of my life. Until now, that is.
About six months ago, I volunteered to spearhead the development of a youth music scholarship program created in my father’s memory. I had no hesitation about taking on the task, knowing that the “music” portion of the equation would be represented by the choir sponsoring the scholarship. Plus, I have a wealth of event and program management experience, so timelines, milestones, checklists, etc., are second nature to me.
What I didn’t anticipate was how frequently I would need to draw upon my employee communications background to manage messaging, identify and respond to challenges, and ensure consistent information flow.
I didn’t realize that the dynamics of a small arts community would so closely resemble the dynamics of an employee team, and that the two groups would present similar internal communications challenges, such as:
- Controlling the message: It took me a while to realize that some members of the arts community were putting their own spin on the scholarship messaging, both positive and negative. As a result, I spent a good deal of time clarifying or debunking misinformation.
- Ensuring the right people get the right information: At first, I was relying on specific points of contact to deliver information, rather than going directly to the source. I quickly learned that some of my points of contact were not working effectively, so I revised my approach.
- Providing a trusted source of information: Since I am not a resident of the community, despite proactive outreach and consistently providing ALL my phone numbers and email addresses, the locals preferred to contact someone they knew instead. The only solution for that problem was time and face-to-face communication to establish my creditability.
The good new is, all those years in Corporate America taught me to adjust quickly to address and resolve problems.
I’m happy to report that, despite a few early stumbles, this week we successfully completed our first selection process, and one very talented young vocalist will be recognized for her abilities. Now we have a solid framework, including a tested communication plan, which will be followed and refined when we start all over again in the spring.